Written by SSDP Alum Irina Alexander. Originally posted March 30, 2017 3 days?! Was that really just 3 days? No way. It’d be against the rules of physics to squeeze that many new lifelong friendships, moving stories, cuddle (and huddle) puddles, and most inspiring panels in SSDP history all into the finite confines of 72 hours… right? If you’re like me, you’re sitting at home, refreshing the #SSDP2017 Facebook page every five seconds, looking back through conference photos already reminiscing about the “good ol’ days”, and wondering what SSDP meme can best sum up how you feel right now. As conference attendee and Side Pocket Images filmmaker Sarah Megyesy put it, “I am emotionally and physically exhausted, yet my soul feels warm.” What. A. Journey. And while the comedown from an experience is never easy, it’s also one of the most important times to put that unconditional love, support, and harm reduction we preach into practice towards ourselves. Below are a few tips for decompressing in the next few days and weeks as you try to start making sense of the one and only #SSDP2017.
- Feel the Feels! Channel your inner Tyler. The conference crash is real. Let yourself cry, laugh, or even do that awkward laughing while you cry and snot is coming out of your nose thing. This process is not going to be linear, and the feelings won’t even always make sense. (Seriously, I almost started crying when I saw my stuffed animal unicorn just now.) SSDP Board Secretary Rachel Wissner says, “I write down all of my thoughts/feelings/ideas about SSDP, DPR, the conference, etc. as soon as possible so I don’t get overwhelmed.”
- Send Gratitude! There are so many folks to appreciate, but so little time to share that appreciation at the actual conference. Take a moment to think about the conversations or panels that have stuck with you, and send personalized messages to folks who left an impact on you. Helping others feel appreciated and acknowledged can help you feel the same way back.
- Fill out the Eval! The #SSDP2017 conference eval is not just going to help SSDP staff make future conferences even more badass; it’s also a set up in such a way that helps you process and reflect on the conference from beginning to end. So, do it! Please?
- Connect! If you’re the type of person who feeds off connection with others, make sure to pad your landing with loved ones. Post on the #SSDP2017 Facebook event page. Organize an informal hangout with your chapter members. Share the stories with your roomie who wasn’t able to attend. It can be a lot to go from being surrounded by SSDP family to being at home all alone, so consider what you can do to remind yourself you’re “connected to the gooood people,” as Eric Sterling would say (well, sing).
- Disconnect! Let’s be real- you’ve also been connecting for days and absorbing some pretty heavy information without much of a break in between. And although I’m just sure you took Stacia’s recommendation to not stay awake past 2am (wink wink), I bet your brain could use a break. Veg out. Watch some Bob’s Burgers. Make some art. If you gain energy from being alone, consider taking a break from social media and watching some funny cat videos. Turn your brain off and give it a break from all the processing.
- Don’t Forget the Basics! Sleep. A lot. To the point that you would usually feel guilty sleeping till. Take a day off work if you’re able to. Remember what it’s like to be outside of a hotel room. Unpack that suitcase and actually put your clothes away. Make your bed. Eat some dank food. Hydrate. Score some free endorphins by exercising. Stay grounded in the basics while your emotions and body catch up with you and you get back to a state of equilibrium.
- Write Down 3 Takeaways! What are 3 things that really stuck with you from this year’s conference? Specific goals, perspectives, philosophies, conversations? Your SSDP New Year’s Resolutions can help steer your intention for this upcoming year within your chapter or in terms of your involvement for SSDP. Write these down and stick them on your mirror so you don’t get thrown off-course. For me, “love instead of stigma” is a big takeaway. I want to commit to continuing helping SSDP turn into the safest space it can be for people to come out about their personal lived experiences as victims of the drug war. There’s so much power in what each and every one of us has gone through.